"As a deaf person, it seems the one thing I'm fighting for more and more is choices. Options of which night to go to the cinema or theatre, a choice of what TV channel to watch, which TED talk to listen to, YouTube video to watch. We have less choice in life."
Ok, maybe not the most succinct or eloquent tweet in the world, but I meant every single word of it. And I believe every word is true.
Deaf people have fewer choices available to them. On all levels of their life. Social. Personal. Professional. Educational. Medical. Physical. The list goes on. If you look at it plainly, we have less choice.
But how does this impact me? And what can be done about it? My Twitter timeline is filled with inspirational deaf (and hearing) people – @DeafieBlogger, @HearingLossHour, @HearingDogs, @Stagetext (The list goes on... and on... and on...) – doing to inspirational things to try and create positive changes for those with hearing loss and give us more choices.
I'm proud of the changes I've made – from vibrating pagers in NHS walk-in centres to raising awareness when I campaigned for subtitled Star Wars on my honeymoon. But sometimes I feel like when we get that little change, the people in charge of the change sit down, pat themselves happily on the back and say, "We've done our bit," and forget about the fact that we need more change. Like when you donate £5 to charity and then ignore all other charity calls to action for the next month or so...
But we are not a charity. We are people who need choices. And what I want to understand is why aren't we getting them?
Social choices for Deaf Girly
Ok, so I'm talking about cinema, theatre, talks, nightclubs, bars, experiences, museums... We are restricted to single nights in a month, Tuesday afternoons at best or nothing at all at worst, to make these things accessible to us.
Why? Is it money? Is it demand in that area? I know that the amazing company Stagetext fights hard to do as much as it can to provide captioned theatre, and that it costs an enormous amount of money...
But what about cinema? Two petitions here and here recently both set out to help give deaf people choices when it came to cinema – and between them they have almost 30,000 signatures. If you haven't signed them, then do. But what I want to know with the cinema is what is stopping them putting more shows on with subtitles? What are they afraid of?
When FJM and I attended our honeymoon screening of Star Wars at Vue back in December, the cinema was full. Absolutely packed full. And I know for a fact that it wasn't packed full exclusively of deaf people. As far as I can tell, most hearing people don't object to subtitles on the screen... and if they do, guess what? They have a choice. Even if every cinema gave us at one subtitled showing a night, that would still give hearing people a whole lotta choice. We currently have none.
Professional choices for Deaf Girly
I've spoken before about how terrifying unemployment is to me, because I know that I lose out on jobs because of my deafness – as documented in this blog here. I can't read this blog back without getting emotional. And I walk past the office responsible most days and it makes me want to scream. But how do we get more choice professionally?
I currently work in a global company that uses Skype for Business for all its calls. My company is being amazing. They have switched to video calls to allow me to lipread. But Skype for Business won't include the speech to text service it has called Skype Translate on its business app. So while you can activate it on your personal Skype account, you cannot on a professional level.
I'm 37 years old. I want to hold my own in meetings. Contribute. Add value. I know there are other services available to help make video calls accessible. But what I want to know is why won't Microsoft give us that choice? And they've yet to tell me. What they did tell me was that I could add my request to their feedback forum and if it got enough votes they may consider implementing it. Nice huh? You can vote for it here.
But what else can we do to change the fact that Action on Hearing Loss reports that 70% of deaf people in the UK feel that their deafness prevents them succeeding in the workplace?
Personal choices for Deaf Girly
This is one of the areas where I have seen the most change in the last 10 years of so. Thanks to Twitter, it's now much easier for me to access services that were previously phone only. Such as utilities companies, mobile phone companies, insurance companies. More recently, my GP surgery joined the 21st century and now allows you to make appointments online. The app NGT Lite, gives you a basic TypeTalk phone service. HMRC will give you one-to-one, face-to-face meetings with advisors so you can get the same support that people get when they phone. I can book restaurants online or from an app on my phone. The personal 'life admin' choices are greater than ever before. But they're not perfect. More choice please!
Give deaf people the same choices as hearing people
So what is this blog really about? It's about keeping the conversation going. It's about getting it out there to hearing people. To companies. To schools. To universities. To cinemas. To theatres. To anyone who can help make changes and give us choices. And if it's a money thing, to let us know. Be transparent as to why, as a deaf person, we can't have the same choice. And then let us help make that choice possible.
So like, share, retweet, blog, ask, campaign and get out there and see if we can get more choice.
Well that's what I'm going to do anyway.
Happy Humpday peeps